If your dog has experienced some age-related hearing loss or even deafness, it will mean some changes in your everyday life with him. The good news is that dogs are not typically stressed by their inability to hear. In fact, many dogs adapt amazingly well to their handicap. With a few adjustments on your part, your pet can lead a safe, happy life.
Tips for living with a hearing-impaired dog
Let your hands do the talking. Hand signals are fun for dogs—just be sure that any signals you use are bold and clear, and different from gestures you commonly use. Hand signals generally work better if the dog already has a good command of basic training. In addition, hand signals tend to be more effective if they are originally learned in tandem with a verbal command. So start by making the hand signal with commands your dog can hear, if possible. With practice and perseverance, your dog may eventually learn the meaning of the hand signal when it is used alone.
Give him a "thumbs up." Establishing a hand signal for "Good!" or "Yes!" is important. Easily recognized signals include giving him a "thumbs up" and clapping your hands. Saying an animated "Yes!" or "Great dog!" along with your hand signal will let the dog know he has pleased you.
Be consistent. Once you establish a hand gesture or signal, be consistent. Make sure everyone in the family uses the same gestures all the time.
Wake him gently. Don't startle a hearing-impaired dog out of sleep. Always touch him gently in the same place—on the shoulder, for example. Give him a treat and/or lots of love every time you wake him. Tell visitors, especially children, not to touch your dog if he is sleeping.
Have your dog wear a bell on his collar. A hearing-impaired dog may not be able to hear you call him, so you can't expect him to come running from the other end of the house. By putting a bell on his collar, you'll be able to hear him when he's on the move—even if he's in a far room of the house.
Keep up his social life. Don't let his condition limit what he does. Allow him the opportunity to socialize with other dogs and people. Just keep your dog on a leash when you walk him, and have him wear a dog tag stating that he is hearing-impaired. Make sure to tell anyone who interacts with your dog that he is deaf.
Training a hearing-impaired dog requires a little extra patience, but you'll be rewarded by how confidently and happily your dog can live in a hearing world.
For more information about deaf or hearing-impaired dogs, visit the Deaf Dog Education Action Fund's website at deafdogs.org.